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Other Ways to Locate Information on a Relative

A lot of people are not aware of some simple ways to start a search for a relative or their military service. If you have requested their records from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (see other blog post) it may take some time to get them but there are other things you can be doing while you wait. Before you begin your search it is important to have the basics correct which will save you a lot of frustration and hours of wasted searching.

Of primary importance in any record search is having the correct full name and all of its variants. For example my maiden last name is Mousseau, however in the records it is spelt Mooso, Musso, Mousseaux just to name a few variations of it. Official records will have the full birth name and it may be one you were unaware of because there was a nickname the person used or was/is referred to. If you don't have an official document such as a birth certificate then you can pretty easily trace your lineage backwards beginning with yourself and our parents and locate many vital records on sites such as Ancestry. If you are going back a few generations and the family members were citizens of the U.S. or were naturalized or legally migrated this should be relatively easy since so many records are now digitized.

With that information here are a few words of caution. 1.) Many, many people have the exact same name so don't grab the first name you see that matches and go with it. This is true even if the name is unique. I thought my full name was very unique as did the hundreds of other people with the same name. Take the time to verify the parents and other details to make sure you are on the right track. 2.) It was pretty traditional in past centuries to name a child after a child that had passed and they could be relatively close in years of birth. Also the oldest son was often named after the father. Be careful. Again verify details. 3.) Examine the information you find critically - it's easy to say that something cannot be true because you heard differently. I love oral histories but be open to the fact that details may have been added, deleted or sometimes altered. 4.) Birth certificates and baptismal certificates can have different names, a baptismal certificate is not a vital record. Vital records would be birth, marriage and death certificates. 5.) A number of persons under age lied about their age to join the military - so dates may be off.

Armed with that information or at the very least some of that information you an easy site to go to is Fold 3. It is an offshoot of Ancestry and holds many military records such as enlistment papers. This is a great place to start. Also do a search under the periodicals and see if anything pops up under your relatives name. The National Archives digitized files also allow you to do an online search but there site can be difficult to navigate. I will be doing a step by step breakdown of searching those files in a series of posts. Lastly, armed with the correct information and your relatives military service which you will get from the National Personnel Records Center you can contact a researcher that specializes in searching the various archives for your veterans records.

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part but if you persist you will be successful.

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